A comedy storm is brewing in ‘Tropic Thunder’ | VailDaily.com

A comedy storm is brewing in ‘Tropic Thunder’

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

“Tropic Thunder” is the perfect movie for people who love to sit around and watch the E! Network and bitch about all the negative stereotypes that spoiled actors perpetuate. This is a bold step for writer, director and star Ben Stiller, who’s been playing it safe in films like “Along Came Polly” and “Night at the Museum.” Following in the footsteps of recent Rated R runaways like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Super Bad,” “Thunder” opens the floodgates of bad taste and political incorrectness while at the same time presenting characters that are relatable and pitiful to the viewer, even if those characters are also ridiculously stupid and self-absorbed.

Stiller plays highly-paid and pampered action superstar Tugg Speedman, who is most known for his role in “Scorcher” and it’s five sequels and for playing a retarded boy in the failed “Simple Jack.” Speedman’s new project, “Tropic Thunder,” is set to be the most expensive war movie ever made; the only problem is the cast. Each actor is set up to be a mirror of past and current movie-star jerks; anybody who even remotely pays attention to celebrity magazines while standing in line at Wal-Mart will get the jokes.

Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) is the attention-starved comedian attempting a serious role and Kirk Lazarus is the serious, award-winning actor who gets his skin dyed black to fully become the character he portrays in the movie within the movie. Cast against Lazarus is the rapper-trying-to-act, and actual African-American, Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) who also has a 50 Cent-esque line of energy drinks called Bootie Sweat and candy bars called Bust-A-Nut. When the cast get dropped off in the jungle to shoot the movie “guerilla style” they run into a drug-manufacturing gang called the Flaming Dragon and they suddenly realize their fake war movie just got very real.

If it sounds utterly offensive and tasteless, it is. But it’s the complete lack of concern for how audiences will react that makes “Tropic Thunder” work. It simultaneoulsy spoofs and pays homage to every popular war movie ever made, from “Apocalypse Now” to “Platoon.” Perhaps the biggest irony of all is that the film succeeds in every genre it intends to make fun of. There’s enough explosions and machine-gun fire to make it a decent action pic, it’s a very satisfying buddy comedy in the tradition of “The Three Amigos,” and it’s got bite as a social satire.

Stiller, Downey Jr., Black and Jackson all give hilarious performances, but it’s the solid use of cameos and small roles that really take the picture over the top. Tom Cruise (yeah, that Tom Cruise) steals every scene he’s in while playing the foul-mouthed studio executive Les Grossman, easily one of the funniest characters in the film. Matthew McConaughey (yeah, that Matthew McConaughey) gets mad props for playing Tuggman’s agent who won’t rest until the actor has Tivo in his on-set resort. And then there’s Danny McBride, Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan … the list goes on and on.

It’s definitely not a date movie (unless you date the coolest chick in the world), but it’s a great guys movie; one that will have you and your immature friends laughing for a very long time.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.

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